Last Wednesday the Boston Planning and Development and Agency (BPDA) held the first in a series of community workshops at the East Boston Social Centers in Central Square as part of the city’s PLAN: East Boston Neighborhood Planning Initiative.
Over the summer Mayor Martin Walsh announced Eastie was chosen as one of five neighborhoods that will be part of the BPDA’s planning initiative as part of an Imagine Boston 2030-guided effort to ‘preserve, enhance and grow’ the neighborhood.
The city plans to work closely with Eastie community groups, community leaders and other stakeholders to ensure decisions made by the city are following the guiding principles of “preserves wisely, enhances equitably, and grows inclusively”.
The BPDA’s Jason Ruggiero said the Plan: East Boston workshops will be community driven.
“There will be no presentations because we want to hear from you the residents,” said Ruggiero at last week’s meeting. “We want residents to give us information that will help shape a vision for East Boston. We are here to listen to you in an informal setting and engage in creative ideas for what ‘preserve, enhance and grow’ means to the community.”
Ruggiero said that different people might have different ideas on what ‘preserve, enhance and grow’ means to them but that’s okay.
“Tonight there are no wrong answers,” said Ruggiero. “We have to listen to each other and it’s really important we share our ideas because every idea will mean something at these meetings and help us plan a better East Boston.”
After Ruggiero’s introduction to how the workshop would be run residents broke off into smaller groups. After about 45 minutes each group designated a speaker to share ideas with the rest of the attendees.
Meg Grady suggested that there could be an overlapping between ‘preserving’ Eastie architectural integrity while ‘enhancing’ some of the historic shopping districts like the Meridian Street corridor with diverse businesses, more small business opportunity as well as adding more retail that sell goods that are lacking in the community.
Some suggested that it is important to maintain the character of the neighborhood and diversity and affordability must remain an integral part of the neighborhood. While most were not opposed to development, suggestions from the group included smart development that takes into account the feel of the neighborhood, affordability and resiliency. One resident suggested that new development should include more concrete plans to mitigate climate change and traffic that would thus improve the environment for all.
Joanne Pomodoro said her small group discussed some issues residents have been having with some larger development projects. Some in her group felt that a lot of the new development lacks the character of ‘Old East Boston’ and its buildings.
“We welcome a lot of different development,” said Pomodoro. “But sometimes when we see new development it’s just thrown up there. Some of the older homes have character and that stands for something and bringing some of that back through development and maintaining the look of the community is important. No one is against development we just want developer to be more conscientious of the development itself.”
Pomodoro added that more development should include retail opportunities that allows for residents in each section of Eastie to have walkable streetscapes with ‘local’ cafes, restaurants or shops without having to travel long distances or to the other end of the neighborhood.
Eagle Hill Civic Association President Debra Cave said her group wants to see more effort to preserve and protect a lot of Eastie’s historic homes as well as maintaining the tight knit feel of the neighborhood.
“We want to preserve the history of the community and the buildings that have history,” said Cave. “We understand the city needs to add more housing and there are places in East Boston where we can do that without tearing down beautiful old buildings. We want to develop and enhance all of the squares, which we think can be more accommodating to people gathering and getting together. We want to maintain the fabric of the community as a place where people know each other, feel comfortable and feel welcomed. We need venues to make that happen. We need places to sit and have a cup of coffee or eat a meal and gather both inside and outside.”
As part of the initiative in Eastie a comprehensive planning will include a focus on balancing contextually-sensitive development alongside preservation. There will also be a focus on supporting existing residents and businesses through increased access to opportunity, affordability strategies, and anti-displacement policies.
One of the highlights in Eastie will be improving the public realm and access to open space and neighborhood-serving amenities, addressing mobility challenges, and supporting neighborhood resiliency and preparing for climate change.
The city will work with the community in Eastie’s half dozen enclaves with a focus on the the neighborhoods here that are facing increased development pressures. Working with the community the city will determine a shared vision for the future of the neighborhood. Community discussion will focus on preservation of the existing residential fabric, enhancement of the vitality of existing residential communities and businesses, anti-displacement strategies for residents and businesses, connectivity along the waterfront, mobility, and flood protection and climate resiliency.
Residents break off into smaller groups during last week’s Boston Planning and Development and Agency (BPDA) community workshops at the East Boston Social Centers in Central Square as part of the city’s PLAN: East Boston Neighborhood Planning Initiative.
BPDA’s Kristina Ricco leads one of the smaller working groups during the workshop.
BPDA’s Jason Ruggiero (standing) checks on one of the smaller working groups during last week’s Plan: East Boston workshop.
After breaking off into smaller groups for 45 minutes each group designated a speaker to share ideas with the rest of the attendees.